Last week, Susan Frederick-Gray, our UUA president, shared a very important message:

“Based on advice from experts, we continue to recommend that congregations not gather in person. We also recommend that congregations begin planning for virtual operations for the next year (through May 2021).

Take a moment to breathe. I know this is significant.

While there is much public conversation about “reopening,” the reality is public health officials consistently predict a long trajectory for this pandemic.  A majority of our congregational members, leaders, and staff members are in high-risk categories. Our care for the well-being and safety of our members and staff must be a priority in this pandemic.

Additionally, religious gatherings are considered highly contagious events. The acts of singing, the familiarity of people across households, the multigenerational community of children, youth, adults and seniors—the things that make our congregations so special—also create more risk for spreading the virus.”

Read the rest of her message here.

If you are like me, you may have had to take several deep breaths after reading that. It is hard to accept, even if I know in my heart it’s the right thing.

I keep wanting to think of creative ideas around this, of ways in which we might be able to gather again in some socially-distant capacity that will be safe, but in my heart of hearts I know that this would always be risky—there are many examples of churches who have done “all the right things” and have spread the virus and had members die. And any in-person gatherings would unavoidably exclude vulnerable people who are unable to gather at this time.

It feels more important after having the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in the church community. As you may have heard at our Sunday service, Dave Margerum (who along with his wife Ginny are Emerson’s longest member at more than 60 years) tested positive last week. He lives at Silverado memory care facility in Calabasas where over half their residents have tested positive. Thankfully, he still isn’t showing any symptoms after testing positive more than a week ago. The reality of this virus is now very close to home.

I am feeling deep grief right now—the loss of in-person togetherness, voices joined in song, and offering a hug to those who need one—yet I’m grateful. Grateful for leaders guided by science, critical thinking, humility, compassion, and courage. Leaders who put the needs of the most vulnerable first.

We will get through this together. As have been through other challenges before, including an earthquake and fire that destroyed our building twice. We have the capacity and technology to bind our communities together in love, even at a distance, and still, I acknowledge that this will be hard.

Holding us all in love.

Rev. Matthew